BWW Review: Colman Domingo's DOT Mixes Broad Comedy With Family Drama
The pointillist street scene decorating the curtain at Colman Domingo's Dot suggests the play could be subtitled "Sunday In The Brownstone With George." Perhaps the dots represent the randomness of thoughts going through the head of the main character, whose name is Dotty. Perhaps it's mean to suggest that, if the evening seems a bit disjointed, viewers should figuratively step back a bit and it will all blend together.
The blend between the broad comedy and the moments of poignancy in Domingo's family drama isn't a smooth one, but at the center is a heart-tugging and sincere performance by Marjorie Johnson as West Philadelphia family matriarch Dotty.
While Dotty seems perfectly capable and pleasant most of the time, it's those sudden moments of dementia that have driven her daughter Shelly (tough as nails Sharon Washington) to slugging down watermelon-flavored vodka at 10am.
It's two days before Christmas and Shelly, a single mom who has been Dotty's primary caregiver while raising her (unseen) son, wants to use the family gathering to discuss their mother's future. Not much help should be expected from her flamboyant sister Averie (energetic Libya V. Pugh), a former YouTube sensation who has fallen on hard times and is considering a celebrity mud-wrestling gig. Their brother Donnie (Stephen Conrad Moore), who lives in New York, is an unemployed musical archivist, who, in one scene, proves he would make a pretty good piano bar entertainer. He arrives with his charming husband, Adam (Colin Hanlon), who has a sweet moment sweeping Dotty off her feet with a bit of ballroom dancing.
Family friend Jackie (Finnerty Steeves), who was Donnie's high school girlfriend, still hasn't gotten over the heartbreak of his being gay and is pregnant by her latest married fling.
The healthiest relationship that appears on stage is that between Dotty and her part-time caregiver Fidel (Michael Rosen), a refugee from Kazakhstan who is trying to avoid being deported, as he would be killed in his home country for being a political rebel.
Set in the kitchen and the living room of Dotty's home, designer Allen Moyer's nicely detailed set seems a bit large for the small Vineyard Theatre, and director Susan Stroman's staging often looks awkward as the actors maneuver the crowded space.
But thanks to the solid company the production is entertaining and often funny, though jokes involving chitlins, fried chicken, the aforementioned watermelon-flavored vodka and a reference to the theme song of TV's "Good Times" seem more shticky than character-driven. Dot tends to come off as "a very special episode" of a sitcom when the show decides to tackle a serious issue as a change of pace.